Sunday, 18 March 2018

Annihilation is a hybrid house of horrors

Director Alex Garland's follow-up to his claustrophobic sci-fi masterpiece Ex Machina splices together DNA from Avatar, John Carpenter's The Thing, Apocalypse Now and Alien.

Annihilation is a controversial adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer's award-winning novel, which I've yet to read so was free of any preconceptions. The controversy derives, for the most part, from Paramount's decision not to release the movie theatrically outside the US and China due to a poor test screening, and the director's reluctance to dilute this cerebral and ambiguous sci-fi thriller.

So, cinema's loss is Netflix's gain. Netflix completes a trifecta of streaming sci-fi movies day-one starting with The Cloverfield Paradox, Duncan Jones' misfiring passion project Mute and now Annihilation starring Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac.

Annihilation is Netflix's first bonafide sci-fi classic, which will be deconstructed, frame-by-frame, by cinephiles for decades to come. It's a puzzling sci-fi thriller paradox best enjoyed sans spoilers. So, in the service of that, I won't say too much. However, fellow Doctor Who fans may recognise an indirect nod to Tom Baker's classic gothic serial Horror of Fang Rock.

From Natalie Portman's always compelling central performance as Lena, a wife in search of answers as to what happened in the Shimmer to her soldier husband, played by Oscar Isaac, to a sense of wonder juxtaposed with brutal horror. Annihilation's nuanced images and poetic musings will haunt you long after the end credits have finished rolling and for that, I applaud Alex Garland.

Annihilation earns a deserved place alongside Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 in the Hollywood pantheon of thought-provoking filmmaking in an era dominated by bombastic multi-billion-dollar franchises. It’s available to stream on Netflix.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

HBO releases new images from Westworld Season 2

Westworld season 2 starts on HBO and Sky Atlantic this April. HBO's released new promotional photos depicting returning characters including Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), Teddy Flood (James Marsden) and William (Ed Harris).

The first season, with sweeping vistas worthy of an IMAX screen, captured my imagination in 2016. So much so, I've rewatched it twice.

Spoiler alert for folks who haven't watched season one of HBO's lavish sci-fi reboot. The second season picks up from the climatic first season finale with the self-aware androids running amock inside the theme park and the Delos corporation struggling to reassert control over its creations.

Westworld season 2 begins 22nd April on HBO and 23rd April on Sky Atlantic.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Ready Player One sans Star Wars

Following director Steven Spielberg's surprise appearance at SXSW, and premiering Ready Player One to a gathered audience, Warner Bros. has released the final trailer. Dreamer.

Spielberg's upcoming movie is replete with infinite references to the geek galaxy of the eighties. However, the Oscar-winning director was unable to secure rights to include the granddaddy of them all. Star Wars. This I did not foresee, Padawan.

Spielberg has a storied history with the franchise. George Lucas, his friend and Indiana Jones collaborator, created the space opera and Amblin co-founder Kathleen Kennedy is Lucasfilm president at Disney.

"We couldn't get any Star Wars rights," Spielberg revealed at a press conference. "[We tried] very hard. They wouldn't give up the Star Wars rights."

“You could’ve called me on that one, Steve,” joked Rogue One actor Ben Mendelsohn, who stars as the big bad Nolan Sorrento in Ready Player One. “I built the Death Star, I’m just saying.”

With a 29th March release, we're on the home stretch and I'm watching a collection of classic 1980s movies referenced in Ernest Cline's original book. From Ferris Bueller's Day Off to WarGames...

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Shadow of the Tomb Raider released this September

Today Square Enix announced the final chapter in the Tomb Raider reboot trilogy to coincide with the live-action reboot starring Alica Vikander as Lara Croft in cinemas.

The 2013 Tomb Raider reboot came out of left field and was a darling of the critics and gamers alike. The first sequel Rise of the Tomb Raider, marred at launch by an Xbox One timed exclusive controversy, built on that robust foundation in 2015 and expectations are high for the climactic instalment.

Camilla Luddington (Grey's Anatomy) provided the voice and motion capture reference for Lara Croft in the first two instalments. Hopefully, she's reprising the role for the third time.

A full reveal of Shadow of the Tomb Raider is scheduled for 27th April. In the meantime here's a teaser trailer.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider will be released on Xbox One, PS4 and PC on 14th September. Pre-order from

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

"Why so serious, Wiseau?"

Last weekend I rewatched The LEGO Batman Movie on Sky Cinema and was struck by how cleverly it explores Batman's relationship with The Joker in stark contrast to the current live-action DC Comics cinematic universe at Warner Bros.

Coincidentally, Tommy Wiseau (The Room) has published an audition tape for The Joker online. Wiseau creepily distils several famous incarnations of Batman's ultimate nemesis.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

SNL's The Mos Eisley Five: A Star Wars Story

Ron Howard's Solo: A Star Wars Story is in cinemas 25th May. In anticipation of the upcoming Star Wars spin-off, Saturday Night Live (SNL) has produced a new skit as part of its Cut for Time digital series.

In the Star Wars skit JJ Abrams, director of The Force Awakens and upcoming Episode IX, introduces a first look at the summer 2019 movie The Mos Eisley Five: A Star Wars Story, starring Mikey Day, host Charles Barkley, and Kate McKinnon.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Jon Favreau to write live-action Star Wars series

Actor-director Jon Favreau, who kick-started the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) a decade ago with Iron Man, is executive producer and writer for Lucasfilm's upcoming Star Wars live-action series.

“I couldn’t be more excited about Jon coming on board to produce and write for the new direct-to-consumer platform,” says Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. “Jon brings the perfect mix of producing and writing talent, combined with a fluency in the Star Wars universe. This series will allow Jon the chance to work with a diverse group of writers and directors and give Lucasfilm the opportunity to build a robust talent base.”

Favreau is thrilled to be returning to the Star Wars galaxy: “If you told me at 11 years old that I would be getting to tell stories in the Star Wars universe, I wouldn’t have believed you. I can’t wait to embark upon this exciting adventure.”

There has been a backlash, in the wake of the announcement, citing a lack of diversity. However, Favreau is an exciting choice and has been previously linked to the Star Wars sequel trilogy and spin-off movies. This is the guy who gave us Elf and an award-winning live-action adaptation of Disney's The Jungle Book.

The upcoming live-action series will be available exclusively on DisneyLife late 2019. Disney's streaming service was soft-launched in the UK in 2015 and is now available in Ireland before being rolled out internationally.

Favreau appears next in Solo: A Star Wars Story this May.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Star Wars: Episode IX will be John Williams' last

During a talk with Jim Svejda for KUSC Interviews, award-winning Hollywood composer John Williams hinted Star Wars: Episode IX, directed by JJ Abrams, will be his last for the space opera franchise.

“We know JJ Abrams is preparing Star Wars: Episode IX now, that I will hopefully do next year for him. I look forward to it. It will round out a series of nine. That will be quite enough for me."

Williams, most recently Oscar-nominated for The Last Jedi, has composed music for the original, prequel and sequel trilogies. Episode IX would be the culmination of George Lucas' original vision and a poignant bookend to a stellar body of work spanning over forty years.

Williams' symphonic sound is synonymous with the Star Wars franchise, but Michael Giacchino performed musical duties with aplomb for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story despite only having a month or so to write music after Alexandre Desplat departed the spin-off due to a scheduling conflict.

Fans can hear Williams' Han Solo theme in the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story this May. Oscar nominee John Powell is composing the rest with a guitar-brass-infused score.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Explore strange new worlds in Lost in Space

Lost in Space should fill the void left by Star Trek: Discovery on Netflix this April.

Watch the first full trailer to see Will Robinson's extra-terrestrial Geth-like (Mass Effect) guardian - a far cry from the beloved 'bubble-headed booby' of the original sixties sci-fi series.

There's a palpable sense of wonder and discovery permeating Netflix's lavish reboot. Something absent from most Hollywood sci-fi franchises.

“Fans of the original show should know we maintain the core of what was special about that experience of watching that as a child,” series showrunner Zack Estrin said. “For new fans of the show, there’s a certain baggage associated with the title. ‘Oh, that’s that campy show from the ’60s,’ or, ‘That’s that movie from the ’90s that was… what it was.’ We are taking that core of an idea—the Robinson family is striving to hold together and survive in this incredible circumstance.”

Stream Lost in Space from 13th April only on Netflix.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Play arcade classics with Ready Player One

In anticipation of director Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One releasing in cinemas this month. Fans can play arcade classics Joust, Tapper, Sinistar and Robotron: 2084 on the official website. More games are teased.

"The film is set in 2045, with the world on the brink of chaos and collapse. But the people have found salvation in the OASIS, an expansive virtual reality universe created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance). When Halliday dies, he leaves his immense fortune to the first person to find a digital Easter egg he has hidden somewhere in the OASIS, sparking a contest that grips the entire world. When an unlikely young hero named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) decides to join the contest, he is hurled into a breakneck, reality-bending treasure hunt through a fantastical universe of mystery, discovery and danger."

Ready Player One is in cinemas 29th March.